The devastation caused by super typhoon Yolanda left scores of young children in the Visayas with no choice but to cope with the loss not only of their loved ones and their houses but also their schools. To help rebuild their lives, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has donated P2 billion for the construction of new classrooms for public school students in the Visayas and some parts of Region 4.
According to PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Cristino Naguiat, Jr., typhoon Yolanda damaged thousands of public school facilities in the Visayas. “The Department of Education (DepEd) said roughly 40% to 60% of public school children in severely affected areas have resumed their classes in makeshift classrooms. We want to give these kids new school buildings to provide them with decent and comfortable learning facilities. For this reason, PAGCOR donated P2 billion to DepEd. They need a huge amount to rehabilitate and reconstruct thousands of classrooms,” he added.
The DepEd’s latest report estimated that about 5,900 classrooms in the Visayas and Region 4 that stood in the path of super typhoon Yolanda were totally ruined while 14,508 were partially damaged.
The P2 billion funding from PAGCOR will be used to construct approximately 2,000 classrooms in these areas including Palawan and Romblon. DepEd reported that Palawan and Romblon recorded the most number of heavily damaged schools with 47 and 26, respectively. Public schools in Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo, Bogo City, Cebu, Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Ormoc and Tacloban also badly need help in rehabilitating their learning facilities.
“By doing our share in the government’s rehabilitation efforts, we can give hope and provide assistance to the students who are now studying in makeshift classrooms. These are the same students who are still dealing with their loss yet they are trying to move on with their lives. For our country to really rise from this tragedy, we must all be willing to help the survivors – especially the youth – to live normal lives again,” Naguiat said.
PAGCOR sealed its P2-billion commitment to DepEd through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by PAGCOR Chairman Naguiat and DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro last December 20. Also in attendance to witness the MOA signing was Secretary Panfilo Lacson who was recently appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.
Under the agreement, PAGCOR will not only fund but also help monitor the progress of the construction of new classrooms in Typhoon Yolanda devastated areas. DepEd, on the other hand, will handle all phases of implementation including the preparation of documentary requirements, procurement, construction, monitoring, maintenance and final inspection, among others.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said PAGCOR’s P2 billion donation is the biggest funding they got so far from all the sectors and organizations that signified interest in the rehabilitation of all damaged classrooms. “Ito po yung pinakamalaking bonanza na nakuha ng DepEd na talagang tumutugon sa Yolanda. Noong nakalipas na mga taon, ang PAGCOR – sa pamumuno ni Chairman Naguiat – nakapagtayo ng mga classrooms sa iba’t ibang lugar. Pero itong P2 billion na ito, para talaga sa nasalanta ng Yolanda.”
Luistro added that the DepEd will need around P4 billion for the replacement of totally damaged classrooms alone. “The P2 billion is already half of the funds that we need for the replacement of over 5,000 completely ruined classrooms. Kahit na malakas ang Yolanda, kaya nating malagpasan basta’t nagtu-tulungan,” he said.
The Education Secretary also said that given the increasing frequency and intensity of typhoons that occur in the country every year, DepEd will be building earthquake and typhoon resistant classrooms with roofs that can withstand maximum sustained winds of at least 250 kilometers per hour. Super Typhoon Yolanda’s recorded average strength was at 314 kilometers per hour. He also noted that by January 2014, they will start the bidding process and procurement of construction materials.
Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Secretary Panfilo Lacson meanwhile said that it is in times of crisis and calamities that Filipinos show genuine concern and generosity. “Walang ibang magandang panahon na ipakita ang pagtu-tulungan kundi sa panahon ng krisis. Maraming sectors ang gustong tumulong sa mga nasalanta. It’s really overwhelming. Malaki din ang tiwala ng ating mga kababayan sa pamununo ni Secretary Luistro.”
Lacson added that with regard to classroom rehabilitation, they intend to “build back better” – which means replacing damaged classrooms with better and safer ones. “Mas mahal ang classroom kung mas maayos. But it is imperative for these classrooms to withstand calamities because every year, around 20 typhoons visit the country,” he explained.
To date, PAGCOR has allocated a total of P5 billion for the construction of classrooms in public schools nationwide. It will be recalled that the agency has already released P1 billion to DepEd and P2 billion to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the implementation of PAGCOR’s “Matuwid na Daan sa Silid-Aralan” school building program. With the P5 Billion fund, PAGCOR together with DepEd aims to build thousands of classrooms nationwide. To date, 588 classrooms in 105 sites had been completed under the said project. Thousands more are under construction while others are still undergoing the procurement process. PNA